Last year, the US National Park Service (NPS)
turned 100(!), and we think it’s best to keep the party going. With summer right around the corner, why not start planning your trip to a national park
now?! The world is full of color
and adventure — it’s basically begging to be explored! And, lucky for us, there are multiple
national parks in every state (the NPS includes 417 units of parks, monuments, and other types of protected areas)! Whether you want to go at it alone
or bring the whole squad, think about hitting up these incredible parks this summer.
Little River Canyon National Preserve, Alabama:
Little River Canyon offers tons of recreational activities, such as swimming, fishing, hiking, and paddling, all starting at the base of a 45-foot waterfall.
Denali National Park, Alaska:
Home to North America’s tallest peak, Denali National Park and Preserve covers six million acres of wild land. Only one road runs through this national park. ONE!
Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona:
Recognized internationally for its bold colors and unique terrain, the Grand Canyon is a must-see, but you probably already knew that.
Hot Springs National Park, Arkansas:
The area has been frequented by Indigenous people for 8,000 years, and the water in the springs is believed to have medicinal qualities. This is also the oldest park managed by the NPS.
Yosemite National Park, California:
Nestled in the Sierra Nevada Mountains and covering nearly 1,200 square miles, Yosemite is home to waterfalls, valleys, meadows, and gigantic sequoias. Pro-tip: Yosemite is a California must-see, but if you have time, be sure to also drive down the golden coast through Big Sur and down to Joshua Tree National Park.
Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado:
One of the most visited parks in the country, the Rocky Mountains feature more than 100 peaks. Feelin’ extra adventurous? Take the trails by horseback!
New England National Scenic Trail, Connecticut:
The cross-country New England Trail passes through traprock ridges and waterfalls, as well as colonial towns and historic farmland. Talk about the best of both worlds!
First State National Historic Park, Delaware:
Calling all history buffs! In 1787, Delaware was the first state to ratify the Constitution, hence the name First State National Historical Park. Check out the wooded trails and historic courthouse. (Photo via Margie Politzer/Getty)
Biscayne National Park, Florida:
Located off the coast of Miami, Biscayne National Park protects aquamarine waters and exotic coral reefs. The park offers a variety of water activities, such as boating, snorkeling, and diving. It’s like our own Great Barrier Reef.
Haleakalā National Park, Hawaii:
Spoiler alert — this park is not
located near the beach. Situated in the heart of Maui, Haleakalā protects endangered species amongst the volcanic landscape and nearby rainforest. Plan a trip to the high points of the park to watch the sunrise over the ocean.
Craters of the Moon National Monument and Preserve, Idaho:
Prepare for an out-of-this-word experience. The space-like scenery at Craters of the Moon is the result of eight significant disruptive periods that occurred between 2,000 and 15,000 years ago. Mind. Blown.
Lincoln Home National Historic Site, Illinois:
Arguably the most recognized president of the US, Abraham Lincoln made huge strides for the American people during his term as 16th prez. That’s why the NPS recognizes his 12-bedroom home as a national landmark, where visitors can learn about the place Lincoln lived in for 17 years.
Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore, Indiana:
On the southern shore of Lake Michigan, Indiana Dunes spans 15 miles and has over 50 miles of hiking trails, AKA endless exploration.
Effigy Mounds National Monument, Iowa:
Constructed by Native Americans from 20 different tribes over 1,000 years ago, the Effigy Mounds consists of animal-shaped mounds in the earth. It’s considered a very sacred site, and for good reason!
Brown v. Board of Education National Historic Site, Kansas:
History is too often forgotten in textbooks, but a visit to Brown v. Board of Education will remind you of our nation’s uphill battle to equality. In 1954, the Supreme Court ruled to end segregation in public schools; now, you can visit the site where it all started and take a tour of Monroe School.
Mammoth Cave National Park, Kentucky:
Okay, get this — Mammoth Cave preserves the longest known cave system in the world
. With over 400 miles of the cave explored, visitors can take underground tours, as well as go hiking and canoe the Green River.
Cane River Creole National Historical Park, Louisiana:
The 63-acre park conserves Creole culture (those born in colonial Louisiana during French and Spanish rule) and includes two historic cotton plantations. (Photo via Stephen Saks/Getty)
Acadia National Park, Maine:
This one’s for adventurers! The jagged cliffs that meet the Atlantic Ocean at Acadia make for great rock climbing, while Precipice Trail offers small walkways, metal rungs, and wooden bridges.
Assateague Island National Seashore, Maryland:
Inhabited by wild horses, Assateague Island is especially beautiful in the spring and fall. Explore beaches, maritime forests, and coastal towns, or take a bike tour on the waterfront.
Cape Cod National Seashore, Massachusetts:
We know you’ve heard of this one! Decorated with tons of lighthouses, Cape Cod preserves over 40 miles of white sandy beach. Visitors can enjoy swimming, surfing, or hiking the surrounding trails.
Isle Royale National Park, Michigan:
Isle Royale is the largest island in Lake Superior (the park includes Isle Royale and about 400 smaller islands). The area is the perfect destination for hiking, kayaking, and scuba diving.
Voyageurs National Park, Minnesota:
Accessible primarily by water, Voyageurs is well-known for its canoeing and kayaking activities, although, in the winter, visitors can also snowshoe, cross-country ski, and snowmobile.
Natchez National Historical Park, Mississippi:
On the Mississippi River, Natchez National Historical Park preserves the history of the city of Natchez, from European settlement and African enslavement to the Civil Rights Movement.
Wilson’s Creek National Battlefield, Missouri:
Time for a history lesson! The location of the first major battle of the Civil War, Wilson’s Creek is protected by the NPS as a National Battlefield. Fought in 1861, the battle ended in a Confederate victory.
Yellowstone National Park, Montana (Idaho, Wyoming):
Fun fact! Yellowstone is the first
national park in the whole world. Pretty cool, right? Yellowstone offers a ton of cool activities, such as hiking, horseback riding, and wildlife watching. Just keep an eye out for bears!
Glacier National Park, Montana:
Bonus! Montana is so darn beautiful, we had
to add another park. Known as the Crown of the Continent due to its streams that flow to the Pacific Ocean, Glacier National Park is covered in crystal clear waters and glacier-carved peaks. Visitors can hike, bike, and camp in this part of the Rocky Mountains.
Scotts Bluff National Monument, Nebraska:
Scotts Bluff sits 800 feet above the North Platte River and covers about 3,000 acres of land. While hiking the Oregon Trail Pathway, visitors can see abandoned wagons from the 19th century.
Great Basin National Park, Nevada:
When it comes to Nevada, the average American usually thinks, “Vegas.” It’s time to think twice, because Great Basin is another must-see. From the Lehman cave tours to Wheeler Peak’s 13,000-foot summit, this park has a lot to offer.
Appalachian Trail, New Hampshire:
Although the Appalachian Trail extends over 2,000 miles from Maine to Georgia, the land through New Hampshire is especially worth seeing. On this portion of the trail, visitors can see the tallest mountain in the Northeast, Mount Washington.
New Jersey Pinelands National Reserve, New Jersey:
Covering over one million acres of farms, forests, and wetlands, the New Jersey Pinelands are classified as a national biosphere reserve.
Carlsbad Caverns National Park, New Mexico:
Over 119 caves make up Carlsbad Caverns National Park. Carlsbad offers several different hikes and tours of the caves — just watch out for bats!
Hudson River Valley National Heritage Area, New York:
Hudson Valley River National Heritage Area spans from New York City all the way to Albany. Here, there are opportunities for hiking and rock climbing and, for the history buffs, Revolutionary War sites and the Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum.
Blue Ridge Parkway, North Carolina:
Located amongst the Pisgah National Forest, Blue Ridge Parkway features North Carolina’s Blue Mountains. Adventure seekers must take the Art Loeb Trail for insane views.
Theodore Roosevelt National Park, North Dakota:
Named in honor of our 26th president, Theodore Roosevelt National Park is a rugged yet beautiful landscape, known for its wildlife (think: bison and elk) and Painted Canyon.
Cuyahoga Valley National Park, Ohio:
Just outside of Cleveland, Cuyahoga Valley National Park is full of beautiful forests, rolling rivers, and lots of farmland. Visitors can hike through the flower meadows (gorgeous!) or take a ride on a vintage train.
Chickasaw National Recreation Area, Oklahoma:
Water-lovers will adore Chickasaw National Recreation Area. Springs, streams, lakes, and creeks make for great swimming, fishing, and motor boating. Don’t forget your swimsuit!
Crater Lake National Park, Oregon:
Crater Lake is an out-of-this-world experience. A result of rainfall and snowmelt only, the water is vividly blue due to the depth and cleanliness of the lake. At 1,943 feet, it’s the deepest lake in the US!
Gettysburg National Military Park, Pennsylvania:
As the Civil War’s bloodiest battle, Gettysburg was a major turning point in the war. Today, visitors can tour the battlefield and even see live rifle and cannon demonstrations. It's a gateway to history.
Blackstone River Valley National Historical Park, Rhode Island:
The Blackstone River Valley National Historical Park commemorates America’s transition into the Industrial Age. Here, the first textile mill was built, and the rest is, well, history. Visitors can embrace this history by exploring the surrounding towns or hiking the trails.
Congaree National Park, South Carolina:
Covering 26,500 miles of South Carolina, Congaree National Park preserves the largest old growth forest in the southeastern US. The park is known for the height of its forest canopy, as well as the Congaree and Wateree Rivers that flow through it.
Badlands National Park, South Dakota:
While the state of South Dakota is primarily flat, Badlands National Park is quite the opposite. As one of the world’s richest fossil beds, Badlands contains large rock formations that came about as a result of millions of years of erosion. The park is home to bison, big horned sheep, and prairie dogs, among other animals.
Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Tennessee:
The most visited national park in the US, the Great Smoky Mountains were named for the fog that floats in the valleys between the mountains. Watch out for waterfalls and black bears!
Big Bend National Park, Texas:
A vast desert landscape carved by canyons and a rushing river makes Big Bend National Park an incredible adventure destination. Hike the Chisos mountain range or float the Rio Grande for a stellar outdoor experience.
Zion National Park, Utah:
As Utah’s first national park, Zion is definitely on our bucket list. Sandstone cliffs of pink and red hues make for the perfect Insta, right?! Zion is also known for its slot canyons, where visitors can hike across rivers.
Shenandoah National Park, Virginia:
About an hour outside of Washington, DC, Shenandoah National Park is the perfect escape from city life. With over 200,000 acres of protected land, this park features waterfalls, forests, and beautiful valleys for hiking.
Mount Rainier National Park, Washington:
An active volcano, Mount Rainier stands 14,410 feet above sea level and is known for its numerous glaciers. The base of the mountain is surrounded by forests and Insta-worthy wildflower meadows.
Chesapeake and Ohio Canal National Historical Park, Washington, DC:
The 184.5-mile canal extends into Virginia and Maryland. Once a source of transportation and jobs for people along the Potomac, the canal now is a great place to explore nature via foot or bicycle.
New River Gorge National River, West Virginia:
Calling all rock climbers! As one of the oldest rivers on the continent, New River Gorge National River is surrounded by more than 14,000 rock climbing trails. Visitors can also enjoy rafting and hiking.
Apostle Islands National Lakeshore, Wisconsin:
Who knew there were islands in Wisconsin?! With 21 islands and 12 miles of land, Apostle Islands National Lakeshore is best explored by kayak or boat.
Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area, Wyoming:
With over 120,000 acres of preserved land, Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area is an adventurer’s personal heaven. Take a kayak on Bighorn Lake, where you’ll be surrounded by massive canyon walls.
The great outdoors are calling. What national park will you visit this summer? Tweet us your vacay plans @BritandCo.
(Photos via Getty)